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Why I Left Swarthmore

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

I was studying for finals in Cornell basement when the email came. It was one of 50 emails I received every day, but this one was different. Almost afraid to click on it, my fight-or-flight response kicked in as my heart raced faster and my body tensed up as if I were about to take an organic chemistry final. After a few seconds, I finally clicked on the link:

“Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission…”                                      

I wanted to scream but instead let out the smallest squeal, quickly remembering that I was in a library. After a weird look from a student sitting near me, I calmed myself down and kept reading.

I had been accepted into Brown University, where I am now.

That acceptance letter made me feel happier than I had in awhile, maybe even that whole year. The funny thing is, that feeling of happiness was all too familiar. I had felt almost the same way when I got into Swarthmore. Actually, I was even more excited about my acceptance to Swarthmore because college decisions felt like a much bigger deal back then. So what changed, and why did I leave Swarthmore?

Maybe my high expectations of Swarthmore had something to do with it. I loved the idea of going to Swarthmore and looked forward to it more and more during my gap year. But a few weeks after arriving on campus, the initial excitement wore off, and I started to realize that Swarthmore really wasn’t the perfect place for me.

While academically I was enjoying classes like Bio 1 and Narcissus and the History of Reflection (a first year seminar), I couldn’t help but think I wanted more classes to choose from. I wanted to study neuroscience as well as science and society, which involves studying how science interacts with society through different lenses.  Last semester at Brown, I absolutely loved Introduction to Neuroscience not just because of the class t-shirt, but also because I learned about neuroanatomy, vision, pain, addiction, mental illness, and more.

Just as importantly, I wasn’t happy at Swarthmore. I often felt trapped and frustrated, partly because of the small campus. Being from LA and having taken a gap year, I missed the energy and excitement of cities, and I found myself on a train to Philly every weekend. It was also clear to me that not many of my friends felt the same way—when my friends and I returned from Philly one evening, they told me how nice it was to be back on campus. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than to get back on the train.

By the time I went back home for winter break, it was clear that I needed a different environment. So for the next few months, I worked on my common app and wrote essays about why I wanted to transfer. The hardest part of the process was asking my professors for recommendation letters because I knew they loved Swarthmore. Thankfully, all of my professors were fully supportive and understood my decision. It was particularly reassuring when one professor told me that some students feel the same way when they come back from studying abroad.

After receiving decisions in May, it took me a while to decide to come to Brown. What if Brown wasn’t right for me either? Ultimately, I decided to take that chance and am happy to be where I am now. I love being in a bigger school with a lively atmosphere (even though it’s much colder here). I love that my roommate is a dual degree student studying anthropology at Brown and furniture design at RISD (she even made a table for our room), and that I can shop classes like Death, Health Care in the US, and Cognitive Neuroscience of Meditation. And of course, Brown gets bonus points for having a Starbucks two minutes away from my room instead of 20 minutes.

But at the same time, there were definitely some things I took for granted at Swarthmore, like my relationship with my professors. Ironically enough, leaving Swarthmore has made me appreciate it even more. Yes, it’s definitely not the best school for me personally, but I feel incredibly lucky to have gone there for a year. In fact, I talk so highly of Swarthmore that it’s a top choice school for both my sister (a senior in high school) and brother (a freshman trying to transfer). When I tell my friends at Brown about Swarthmore, even they agree that they would love to have the kind of professor interactions that Swarthmore students have—they’re amazed that my intro biology and chemistry professors not only knew my name but also helped me write my papers and showed up to problem sessions three times a week. Now that I’m at Brown, I understand how incredible and valuable those interactions were, especially for a freshman.

I also had an amazing job as a graphic design associate at the Women’s Resource Center where I got to design posters and plan events. I loved working with an amazing team in such a calm, beautiful space. Though I didn’t always appreciate it while I was there, the entire campus, for that matter, is just magical in the fall and spring . When I made my final decision to go to Brown, my mom even said, “But Swarthmore’s so much prettier than Brown! I’d stay at Swarthmore if I were you.”

Sometimes, I really do miss being a student there. I miss the walk from the Science Center to Sharples in the evening, having discussions over tea and snacks at the WRC, and most of all, seeing my friends at Swarthmore every day. The way I feel about Swarthmore is similar to how I feel about Korea—even though I spent most of my life in LA, I still consider Korea another home, with family and people I care about. That’s why, even as a student at Brown, I still love Swarthmore and consider myself a Swattie.


The admissions mistake

in Columns/Opinions by

Since I’ve gotten to Swarthmore, the idea of the so-called “admissions mistake” has never been far from mind. From the Orientation Play in September, which had a plot centered around finding such a mistake until realizing that the mistake was the judgmental college official, to the Celebration of Failure happening this Friday, the concept has stayed on my mind all year. Since my own acceptance to Swat, which came earlier than expected due to being selected as a McCabe applicant, I’ve worried that I’m the admissions mistake. I doubted the validity of the results and worried that the Admissions Office would figure out what they had done. After I realized that I really was in, I thought, “They haven’t even seen my final first semester grades yet! I’m practically failing calculus!” At the time, I had a B in calculus. When I got rejected from half a dozen other schools later that spring, I was nearly convinced that my admission to Swarthmore had been a particularly dramatic clerical error. When I got a call months after my initial acceptance informing me of my selection as a McCabe scholar, I had initially assumed the phone call was to tell me that my calculus grade was too low, and that I would have to find another institution to attend. I still had a B in calculus.

I’ve spent some time reflecting on the idea of the admissions mistake, and I’ve come to two conclusions. The first is that in the traditional sense of the term—that is, if the admissions office does mistakenly accept people—it couldn’t happen just once every admissions cycle. If there is a possibility of someone being here by mistake, there must be more than one person here by mistake, so even if people are admitted here by mistake, they aren’t alone. But I highly doubt that to be true. What I do think is true, however, is that there is no single thing that makes a person destined to belong at Swarthmore, and that we’ve all had a unique set of circumstances that led us here. There was some degree of chance that played a role in each of my important accomplishments, whether it was a teacher helping me find an internship or the right person graduating at just the right time for me to fill their vacant leadership position; nothing happened entirely and solely because I was smart or worked hard. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all admissions mistakes—not because we aren’t qualified to be here but because there is no one way to become a Swattie. All of our journeys are marked by the fact that we didn’t always do everything right, yet we’re still here.

The concept of an admissions mistake stems from the feeling that one doesn’t belong or isn’t qualified enough. These feelings are common and valid, and they deserve both recognition and addressing. In my own experience, redefining the idea of the admissions mistake has allowed me to focus less on my doubts and more on the beauty of the way in which our community comes together. There is not any one way to get here nor any one trait that makes anyone more qualified to be a Swattie than another. Sure, our applications could be quantified and ranked by high school GPA and SAT scores, and the admissions office certainly includes that in their process, but there is no way to measure how much someone fits into this community. None of the stuff that goes into a college application is what makes any of us Swatties; rather, it is what we do, how we treat people, and the experiences we have while here that make us a part of this community. We are all admissions mistakes because we are all the result of our flaws and mishaps that carved the path that led us here, not some error on the part of the admissions office. Mistakes and failure are a part of life and are rightly celebrated as part of the human experience, but the concept of of the admissions mistake can be revamped to spread the idea that not only does every member of the Swarthmore community have unique gifts to share, but each of us ended up here not because any one of us was destined to come here.

Each one of us made the same decisions to apply and matriculate for reasons that may be entirely different than each other. We hold different experiences and are from different places, yet somehow, we all ended up here together. This conceptualization of the admissions mistake is not to imply that any of us are here by mistake, but rather that it was the mistakes we made, the chances we took, the people who believed in us even if we didn’t always deserve it, that got us here; that is what makes our community special.

Postcard From Abroad: Anushka Metha ’15

in Campus Journal/Postcards from Abroad by


Dear Campus Journal,

Getting to Paris was an odd experience. I expected to settle in and find my footing sans probleme, after all I was Cool and International and had already made a Big Move from one country to the other. But when I got here, I felt lost and on my own in a way I’ve never needed to when at Swarthmore. The Eiffel Tower was lonely. The Sacre Coeur was lonely. The Notre Dame was lonely. I realized I’d only ever seen photos of these iconic beauties when some form of light was playing off it, with blue skies and either fluffy white clouds or none at all. Gothic architecture in the dark is beautiful but also quite forlorn.

I will admit, while I was excited to be here, I initially didn’t quite get it. This Paris thing. This City of Lights thing. This City of Love thing.

But today, after spending time in my neighbourhood as opposed to venturing out to places I was told I “needed” to see, I almost skipped home in amazement at how much beauty I had seen in just two hours. And then I saw more of that very specific, very Parisian beauty during the rest of the day.

I still don’t think I get it in the way it has been romanticized by people. I don’t think I get the Paris that I’m supposed to get. The City of Lights Paris. The City of Love Paris. The Idealized City Paris.

But, I think I’ve done one better; I found My Paris. And I fell in love with her today.




Postcard From Abroad: Zoë Cina-Sklar

in Campus Journal/Postcards from Abroad by


Dear Campus Journal,

Our first day in the Amazon of Ecuador, we traveled by bus from Lago Agrio on a “toxitour.”  On this hike,  we saw the unprotected pools of toxic sludge that the company [Petroamazonas] deposited 30 years ago and has yet to clean, and a pipe that releases gas into the air 24-7. We learned about the many negative impacts of these activities (not to mention rapid industrialization or the frequent oil spills in the area) on the health of the community and on the environment. What had this place looked like before industrialization, before oil companies entered?

I received an approximate answer the next day when we traveled to Tiputini Research Station in Parque Nacional Yasuní. This park has the highest diversity of trees, amphibians and bats in the world. Lush doesn’t even begin to describe it. It fairly exploded with green and the bright plumage of birds. I couldn’t sleep at night because the insects and frogs made such a ruckus. I was also kept up by the reality that in coming years, Yasuní could be transformed into an area more like Lago Agrio. There are plans to extend oil extraction in the area. As part of my internship, I’m part of the movement against extraction in Yasuní.

Acción Ecológica, the organization where I’m doing my internship, shares a building and works collaboratively with Yasunidos, a youth collective working to force a national vote on oil extraction in Yasuni. We simply cannot afford to destroy a place like Yasuní.



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